The Triggering Blog
Posted on January 13th, 2012
At Mary-Terese and Dave’s New Years Eve party, a woman came up to me in the kitchen, slender, dressed casually with short hair and glasses, about my age. She was there with her husband and their dog.
“I read your blog,” she said. Past-tense read. She said blog like it was a distasteful word in her mouth.
“Oh thank you! I appreciate anyone who reads me!” I said, oblivious. I had just written my grateful-to-anyone-who-reads-me post.
“Hmmph,” she said. I waited expectantly. She didn’t add anything.
The next day, while we were out walking Django at the park, Mary-Terese brought up the friend.
“I told her to read your blog,” she said.
“Oh yes! She mentioned that to me!” I was still starry-eyed about actual strangers reading my blog.
“She read the Relentless Forward Motion post, and she seemed to, I don’t know, take offense to it. She said she doesn’t agree with doing ultramarathons. She said she doesn’t want to vomit in a ditch.”
“It was a metaphor,” I said.
“I don’t want to do ultramarathons either,” I added. “I don’t even marathon.”
The friend, it turns out, is an occupational therapist who always tells marathoners that the human body was not built for marathons and tries to get them to stop. She tells runners that they should never, ever pay attention to their time. On the other hand, she runs compulsively herself, every morning, even when she’s sick. Her attitudes sound a bit conflicted or at least complicated. Recently she helped get Mary-Terese out for her first-ever outdoor run, which was very cool.
“I think it’s interesting that your blog causes these triggers in people,” said MT. “Even if they take offense. It means you’re onto something that matters.”
In college, I used to write humor for our weekly dorm newsletter, “The Bishop Rock.” Once I wrote a scenario of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John commiserating about finishing their gospels in an all-nighter, like a bunch of college students. They were copying scenes with Jesus from each other that they hadn’t actually attended themselves. “Hey Luke, did you make it to the sermon on the mount? Aw man, that was so early. Can I see your notes?” That sort of thing. It was one of my finest writing moments up to that point.
My formerly good friend Mark — always up for a late-night philosophy discussion and also an avid Campus Crusader for Christ — paid a visit to my room to take me aside and tell me he was deeply offended. He was not joking. I didn’t know what to say. I was raised Catholic and irreverence seemed more expected. But I felt shaken up, and we were never close after that.
When I started writing seriously again in adulthood, I knew I couldn’t let this sort of thing get to me.
Most of what I hear about my blog is positive, but stuff leaks out. I realize now I’m writing about charged topics. I’m writing about things like competition; meeting your goals vs. failing to meet your goals; appearance and aging. I’m writing about how to do something that’s hard and takes time and dedication and will; and people find ways to feel judged in that. It’s true that I’m trying to relate to people how I finally did it, after decades of not figuring it out, of being in exactly the same boat. I’ve weighed forty pounds more than I do now, and most people who know me remember that, but it’s like it’s been forgotten. Maybe my prescription, of learning what it means to have persistence and faith, of five solid years of exercise, sounds so completely over-the-top and out-of-reach.
Earlier this week, a former high school classmate tried to write off my success in fitness as easy for me, the way my academic success in high school appeared easy. I’ve already written about how not true that was — about how opposite this experience has been for me to the ease of academic success I enjoyed. He also suggested not looking to Facebook for encouragement in going even further. But why not? Heck, I use the social pressure of Facebook just to get me to clean my house! It sounds to me like another suggestion that I’m making other people feel worse about themselves in comparison.
Back when I was a teenager, I looked at prettier girls than I and felt envy and discouragement — a common reaction. Sometime in my twenties, I got a different idea: What could I learn from them? How did they do it? I began to look at people more successful than I with curiosity and an attempt to learn. Now when I feel that pang of jealousy, I trace it back to what it means I want to be or learn or do. Some people hoard their secrets, in a scarcity mindset of competition, but others share freely. Talk to the ones who share.
If everyone I know on Facebook, everyone who reads my blog, everyone who ever wanted to do a sport or lose weight or look better were actually to do so, I would be so happy. And so I will tell you everything I know. I realize we’re all different, and some of it will work for you and some of it won’t. And I’m still figuring out more as I go (which is the point of blogging, really). We’re all in this life traveling together on the same road. I believe that.